This passage of 1 Peter is one of the clearest statements that Peter makes that he is writing to people who are not Jewish, but Gentile and pagan. You can see his statement in 1 Peter 4:3-4.
Peter uses a very general word here that can be translated either or “pagans” or “Gentiles,” from which we get the word “ethnic.” It is a general word, and most of the time, it is translated as “Gentiles,” but the usage of “pagan” here is appropriate, because it speaks more to the immoral behavior of the culture than an ethnic description. Peter is writing to people who were once a part of that behavior, and have since repented and walked away from it. However, they still live in such a society, and the draw of temptation and the world’s pull is a strong one. So Peter writes to encourage them.
Those who have watched his readers leave that lifestyle simply don’t understand it. It makes no sense to them, and they think it strange that someone would deliberately not join in with them in such reckless living. It disturbs them to the point that they “heap abuse” on believers, which is the Greek word for “blaspheme.” This indicates that not only do they defame and slander believers, but they do the same to the God of those believers as well.
Peter gives quite an extensive list of sinful actions in this passage, which is similar with other New Testament lists of this sort. The most obvious one is Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, where Paul also reminds his readers that they lived like this in the past. The list Peter gives seems to cover three primary areas of immorality. The first two words, debauchery and lust, refer to sexual immorality. The following three, drunkenness, orgies, and carousing, refer to the consumption or abuse of alcohol. The final phrase, detestable idolatry, refers to pagan worship.
While this seems extreme, and completely unlike our own lives and culture, the similarities are closer than we may like to admit. For example, I went to a movie last week. Three of the four previews displayed exactly these kinds of perversion. One centered on demon glorification, and another preview was filled with graphic sexual immorality. And this was just the previews! I cannot imagine how bad it must get in the full length films they were promoting.
The point is this. Our culture is no better than that in which Peter’s readers lived. We were once a part of that, but we have spent enough time with all of that. It is time for us to live a countercultural lifestyle. Will the world understand this? No. And they will heap abuse on us, ridicule us, and deny God as well. But Peter will shortly describe what will happen to those who do this, and encourage us to stand strong.
In the meantime, don’t give up!
Question: Do you ever experience the world’s ridicule for the way you have chosen to live? How can you stand strong in the face of such abuse? You can leave a comment by clicking here.